Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Unschooling Isn't Parental Manipulation, It's Genuinely Respecting Children as People

Sometimes, actually quite often, the description of unschooling found in homeschooling books (and on homeschooling websites) is really, really not accurate.

And more even than simply inaccurate, I often find it rather insulting.

This is not a relationship built on dishonesty.
Because what's often insinuated, sometimes directly said, is that what unschooling really is, is not just "letting kids do what they want", but instead parents sneakily teaching their children what they, the parents, want them to know.  This is often written with a slightly conspiratorial and condescending air: isn't it wonderful how we let these children *think* they're allowed to follow their own interests, while really we're just pulling the strings?

Now, if actually put into practice, this would completely fall apart.  Kids know when they're being manipulated, and will often let their displeasure in this fact be known (I know that when younger, and faced with less respectful adults, my sister and I were definitely not impressed!); if they don't have any interest in something their parents think they should learn, and the parents force it anyway, it ceases to be unschooling; and if a parent shares an interest, asks if their kids want to go to a museum or sign up for a class, that's not in the least sneaky or manipulative, so doesn't warrant any conspiratorial aura.  All that is, is a parent openly asking their child if they'd be interested in doing something, or genuinely sharing a personal interest.

To think that all unschooling is, is teaching a child without the child ever realizing they're being taught is to completely misunderstand what unschooling is and how it works.  Well, I'm here to say that:

Unschooling has nothing to do with the covert manipulation of children.

An unschooling parent will fill their house with interesting things (or make available other resource rich places: libraries, cultural centers, co-ops, etc.).  They'll be happy to help their children pursue a passion or simply get an answer to a question.

Unschooling is a genuine respect for children, their right to choose their own learning, and their right to be supported in those choices.

Now if only people who have no actual experience or understanding of unschooling would stop pretending they do, it would make it much easier for people just discovering it to gain a solid understanding of what unschooling really is.


  1. I recently reposted a blogpiece I wrote last year with the intention of writing another couple of installments on the same topic! Your post here is the perfect companion to my own! Well done. I'll be sharing this far and wide; thank you for writing it and here is the link to mine if you care to read it:

  2. This is the quote that first began my journey into unschooling: "Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience, you are raising a human being." Kittie Franz
    I'm so happy to have found your blog today. I have one myself, if you'd like to check it out, but really I'm just happy to read yours. :)

  3. @VedetteTX

    I love that quote!

    Thanks for another great piece, Idzie.

  4. @Michelle: Cool! And thank you very much. I'm really glad you like this post!

    @VedetteTX: That's a great quote! Thanks for sharing it, and I'm glad you like this blog. :-)

    @Kelly: Thank YOU for thanking... Oh, wait, that doesn't quite work. :-P Well then, thank you for your continued support! :-)